Adaptogens seem like all the buzz in the wellness world these days but what exactly are they? And what do they do? And why should you incorporate them into your life?
Before I delve into the details and answer the questions above, I think it’s important to point out that we are all bio-individuals and everyone’s bodies are different. When changing anything in your health routine, it’s important to listen to your body. No one knows you better than you!
So, what are adaptogens?
Put simply, adaptogens are ancient, non-toxic plant ingestibles made up of roots, herbs, and mushrooms. Pretty cool, right? Adaptogens have been around for centuries used in Ayurveda practices.
There are three pieces of criteria a plant must meet before it is considered an adaptogen:
Be safe and non-toxic to the recipient
- Have benefits that improve the overall health of our bodies
- Give balance to our bodies by protecting us from stressors
What makes adaptogens so special anyways?
The most important thing these remarkable “gifts of nature” do is help our body resist stressors of all kinds, whether physical, emotional or biological. Now, I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve been feeling very stressed and anxious in our current world. Anyone else with me? I consider my adaptogens a non-negotiable in my self-care routine! They have served me incredibly well when life gets stressful.
A quick google search will yield you a lot of complex medical studies and explanations about all the additional benefits adaptogens provide, but for today I’m going to keep things simple. Adaptogens have been known to provide our bodies with energy, help us eliminate toxins, support our cognition, help us utilize oxygen more efficiently, improve our mood, help us sleep better and help normalize our imbalances so that we can get back to living our very best lives! We are all full of potential and adaptogens help us to continue the good work we set out to do in this world.
Any side effects I should know about?
You can rest assured – taking the wrong adaptogen supplement or wrong dose isn’t dangerous. You might experience some annoying disturbances like a headache or a digestive issue but nothing that is too serious that warrants a trip to the emergency room. As I mentioned above, adaptogens must be considered safe to fit the criteria. If you experience any strange symptoms, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider.
Okay, I’m ready to give adaptogens a shot. Where do I start?
I recommend everyone reading this to do their own research when it comes to finding which adaptogens might work best for you, as there are quite a few! Finding the right routine of adaptogens will also likely involve some experimentation on your part. Always make sure to read through the product's packaging and pay attention to the dosage guidelines.
Here are some of my favorite adaptogens and their benefits to get you started:
Despite its name, elderberry is not the kind of berry you will find at your local farmer’s market nestled in between the blueberries and strawberries; you see, elderberry is a bit of a “specialist”. You will usually find it in the form of a supplement, either a syrup or liquid. Elderberry contains anthocyanins, flavonoids, vitamin A, iron and the immune-supporting vitamin C to name a few. I love to take it regularly just before I travel!
Astragalus isn’t the most well-known herb. However, that’s not to say it hasn’t played a significant role as an herbal medication for thousands of years! This small, flowering plant acts as a fantastic immune booster. It mitigates the effects of stress in the body, thereby supporting the immune system. This is why it has been such a popular herb throughout history. Additional benefits include supporting cardiovascular health and promoting healthy liver function.
I’m a big fan of Reishi mushrooms! They’re great to take at night or anytime you want to relax. Reishi is commonly used for lowering stress and helping with sleep but they’re also well known for acting as a powerful immune booster because they contain something called beta-glucan, a natural polysaccharide. Simply put, beta-glucan is the catalyst that makes our immune system smarter and more efficient. It works by activating every single immune system cell in our body including lymphocytes, T-cells, macrophages, and natural killer (NK) cells. By adding Reishi mushrooms to your regime you arm your body with a powerful defense team!
Ashwagandha is one of the trendier adaptogenic herbs on the market, and rightfully so! This herb is a total superstar due to its effects on stress hormones and the ability to increase the body's ability to cope with stress. Ashwaganda has been used in Indian traditional medicine for 6,000 years and is also reported to help people who have trouble sleeping, something we could all use more of.
How do I include adaptogens into my diet - and remember to do so?
There’s definitely an ever-growing list of wellness products on the market that contain adaptogens. You’ll find everything from supplement capsules to packaged powders to drink mixes and even teas! Adaptogens can be pricey so it’s important to choose your method of consumption wisely and do your research beforehand. Not all products in the marketplace are created equal. Many products are full of processed ingredients, sugars and fillers so be sure to check for the highest quality ingredients.
Now, I’ll be honest, I have a hard time remembering to take my supplements and adaptogen powders every day. It’s not that I don’t want to…sometimes life just gets in the way.
Luckily, there’s Mighty Gum! It’s a no-brainer – gum chewing is a habit I’ve already formed and it’s something I do daily without giving it much thought. Mighty Gum contains all four adaptogens mentioned above and it also includes essential vitamins from fruit and zinc. No mixing any powders, no struggling to remember daily supplements, and no need to brew any tea! Plus, chewing my adaptogens is just way sexier than downing a handful of capsules, am I right? :)
At the end of the day, we all want to achieve vibrant health and live a full life. When we’re sick and stressed out, we are no good for anyone. It’s taken me years to find balance in my health and it’s definitely an ongoing journey but when I find a “thing” that works, I have to talk about it! In the case of adaptogens, there is no doubt they’ve played a significant role in helping me lead a less stressful life experience and I hope they do the same for you.
Board-Certified Integrative Health Coach